With ocean rising on one side & bay rising on the other, Virginia’s Eastern Shore residents ponder future at climate equity workshop

As coastal areas worldwide sink beneath rising sea levels, local community leaders and representatives from the Environmental Resilience Institute at the University of Virginia recently gathered insights and opinions from community members about the changing environment on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, which sits between the rising Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the rising Chesapeake Bay on the other.

UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute partnered with various organizations and community members to hold a Climate Equity Workshop in the Eastern Shore town of Melfa, Virginia.

The workshop included interactive stations which encouraged collaborative discussion on current climate challenges.

About 70 residents came to the Great Hall of Eastern Shore Community College to share stories and experiences on how a changing environment is affecting their lives.

Conversations focused on topics such as increased erosion, coastal flooding, and saltwater infiltration into groundwater and farmlands.

Participants were asked about their priorities and to provide input as to how equitable solutions could be achieved in the region in the face of such environmental changes.

ERI will spearhead more community forums and work with the Community Leaders, Karen Downing and Andre Elliott, and a Community Advisory Group to create additional opportunities to work directly with residents.

As the Eastern Shore Post’s Carol Vaughn reported, “The workshop was the first of many events being planned to seek community input in a five-year, $5 million project that will partner residents and scientists to produce a climate equity atlas — a computer mapping system researchers hope will inform local decisions about how to address climate change’s effects in a way that is fair to everybody.”

The opportunity to work with knowledgeable and caring community leaders on this project is exciting,” said Karen McGlathery, the project’s leader and Director of the Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) at UVA.

The environment and the shoreline on the Eastern Shore are changing, with real consequences for everyone. Our goal is to work with community members to integrate lived experience with research on climate impacts and develop long-term solutions that are equitable and support a prosperous economy. We look forward to the work we can do in collaboration with the residents and stakeholders on the Eastern Shore,” she added.

Additional partner organizations include UVA’s Equity Center and Institute for Engagement and Negotiation, the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at William & Mary, and ODU’s Coastal Resilience Center.

The workshop was sponsored by the National Science Foundation‘s (NSF) Coastlines and People (CoPe) program.

All photos courtesy of UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute. Featured photo shows Andre Elliott (left) and Karen Downing.

See website of UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute.

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